This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, the annual campaign to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes involving the youngest drivers on our roadways. The importance of this effort couldn’t be more dire. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of 14- to 18-year-olds in the U.S. The good news is that smart driving habits by teens could help to prevent accidents and keep our young drivers safe.
For National Teen Driver Safety Week 2014, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created “5 to Drive.” This list of five rules may seem routine to more experienced drivers who have witnessed the dangers of the road over years behind the wheel. In fact, some of the rules are more than rules; they are, in fact, laws in most states. Still, parents, educators and other influential adults should reinforce these rules and help teens practice safe driving habits on every single trip, no matter how short or routine. Doing so could help save lives.
- No phones while driving. No texting. No calling. No social media. No phones at all. The reason is simple: using a mobile phone while driving creates a distraction that slows the reaction time of even the best drivers. No driver is “good” at using a phone while driving. Find a place to stash your phone while behind the wheel to help minimize the temptation using your phone while driving.
- No extra passengers. The more people in the car, the more likely the driver behaves erratically. Follow your local laws regarding minor drivers and passengers or, to be safe, drive alone or with only one passenger.
- No speeding. Speed equals danger. The faster your vehicle is moving, the more difficult it is to stop or change directions. Public roads are not the place for high-speed driving. Follow all speed limits and you will not only improve safety but also avoid the risk of losing your license.
- No alcohol. The reasons for not driving while intoxicated are obvious. It’s both illegal and extremely dangerous. Call a friend—or even a parent—and avoid having an accident that could hurt or kill you or another innocent person on the road.
- No driving or riding without a seatbelt. Buckling up is one of the easiest and best things you can do to improve motor vehicle safety. Every single time you get in the car, put on your seat belt.
If you’re a teen driver, memorize these rules and practice them regularly. If you’re a parent of a young driver, discuss these tips with your children and reinforce them at every opportunity. Most importantly, lead by example. Whether you practice excellent driver safety or behave dangerously, your teen drivers are likely to follow accordingly. So be smart. Show them how responsible drivers improve safety for everyone and your habits will become theirs. Plus, you’ll be improving safety on our roadways every time you practice safe driving.
No amount of driver education can take the place of safety-minded habits like those included in “5 to Drive.” But a specialized teen driving school can help young drivers to better understand vehicle dynamics and control a car in an emergency situation. Consider enrolling your teen in a program like the Tire Rack Street Survival or Skip Barber Teen Safety and Survival. These classes are not only helpful and practical but also fun and memorable.
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Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.